I was a chronic liar as a child, Lottie.
I grew up in Knowle. A small village in the Midlands, much the same as all of the other small villages in the Midlands. Once a year we would go to the Isle of Wight to stay with my Grandad for a week. Occasionally we went to Butlins, or the Peak District at Easter. Apart from these certainties, nothing exciting ever happened. Don’t get me wrong, life was exciting enough. Almost.
In year three I met the phenomenon, ‘Show and Tell’. You brought something in to show the class, and then you’d tell everyone about it. People brought in everything, from their one week old baby siblings, to a Sharks tooth they found on the beach in Majorca. And there was the phase of bringing in goods they had been given on aeroplanes – pillows, eye masks, fold-up toothbrushes, tiny packs of peanuts. It was this phase that sparked off my game of aeroplanes. I’d steal food from the cupboards at home and set up a table next to my bed. Then, wearing an apron I’d pretend to be the air-hostess and put the things on the table, before removing the apron, shifting in to role as the passenger, imagining I was on a short haul from Birmingham International to Glasgow – on business. I set up a campaign for peanuts to go on the weekly shopping list. It was futile, so I made do with Wagon Wheels instead. I loved this game. Little did I know that when I finally boarded a plane at the age of 18 I’d have a crippling fear of flying.
So, compared to my class 3MW comrades, I was dull and boring. And this was where it all started. Faced with another Show and Tell, desperate to stand proud in front of my class and share exciting tales from my adventurous 8 year old life, I put my hand in the air and waited to be called upon. I was! Hurrah. I stood in the line at the front, waiting my turn. It was the standard stuff: new puppy, Majorca at Easter, Dad met the Prime Minister, small pack of peanuts. And then it was my turn. I went for it.
‘I’m going to Africa this weekend.’
Even now my 28 year old self marvels at that audacious 8 year old, if she had to tell a lie, could she at least not have told a plausible one? Glasgow for the weekend. On a plane even. That would have done the trick. But no. Freaking Africa. I didn’t even know where it was on a map. I still remember Mrs Mason’s bemused face. I also remember thinking I’d gotten away with it and finally I would be cool, and popular like the other kids. (Neither of these things actually count for anything Lottie. Another blog on that soon.) So I lied my way through Show and Tells from 3MW all the way to 6LT, stories of riding on elephants, my Dad being a TV presenter, climbing mountains, and undergoing a special programme in hospital to see if I was perhaps related to Royalty.
Sometimes, when a lie went wrong, I’d be massively unpopular for a while, no one likes a liar and usually some smart kid would sniff out the lie in my Show and Tell.
One evening it all changed. I was standing in the Safeway’s car park with brother when we saw a bizarre ring of lights in the sky, huge, spanning a couple of miles wide at least. Massive rotating beams, about forty of them. Everyone else had stopped in the car park to look too. They were astonishing. Almost alien, and there were reports of them in the paper the following week. A mystery. FINALLY, a real life genuine Show and Tell, I had seen a UFO. My heart leapt. My big moment was coming. I prepared extensively for show and tell, heart hammering in my chest, I took a deep breath, spilled my story to the class, eyes alight, delighted.
“That’s lovely dear.” Came Mrs Miller’s response. She seemed unphased by my revelation. Why was she not more thrilled? As I sat down as my desk Aimee Yates leaned across and whispered: ‘LIAR.’
I cried. And got over it. And by the time I got to secondary school I had mostly stopped lying. And now as an adult, I barely ever lie. Maybe a white lie, every now and again. But not whoppers. As an adult my life is far more exciting: flying on real planes, managing cafes, living with crazed Frenchmen or drug-taking landladies, meeting Italian hotel owners that get you drunk at breakfast, I even finally made it to Africa, for a whole week! Finally the truth is more exciting than any lie I could ever tell.
Occasionally lying will be necessary, sometimes for good, to stop someone getting hurt, or to make someone feel better, but even in most of these cases the truth is always better in the long run. Use your judgement.
Edited to add: A good imagination is no bad thing, but just be careful how you use it!
Spot the terrified first time flyer….
There’s also something in this about being exciting enough as you are. I’ll mull that one over Lottie and get back to you on it!